The hijab haircare market is increasingly innovative (Shutterstock).

Halal Industry

Local start-ups innovate in Asia’s hijab haircare market, while GCC market still largely untapped

Haircare brands are offering solutions to the heat, humidity, odour, hair loss and other challenges posed by wearing the hijab.


Dubai: Global haircare brands are recognising a gap in the Muslim market as they launch products for hijab-wearing women and include them in marketing campaigns – and the initiative is triggering start-up businesses within this under-considered segment.

L’Oréal’s Kérastase is the latest international brand to target the segment, having positioned its first anti-hair fall (loss) range Genesis to appeal to hijab-wearing women in Malaysia. Hijab wearing can promote poor hair quality, excessive pressure and traction, effectively boosting hair loss. Tightly wrapped hairstyles under the hijab may cause traction alopecia – a condition leading to hair loss where the hair is consistently pulled.

Such concerns feature in Kérastase’s local marketing campaign featuring a number of hijab-wearing influencers that reached almost half a million Malaysian women, according to Singapore-based marketing agency Beatnk. The company worked with Kérastase on an Instagram campaign for the Genesis launch.

Kérastase’s Malaysian market focuses on the 69% of the country’s women who are ethnic Malays (and mostly Muslim) of whom nine out of 10 use the hijab daily, said Beatnk.

L’Oréal joins cosmetics giants including Unilever and Procter & Gamble (P&G) that already have hijab haircare lines in Indonesia and Malaysia. Unilever introduced its Sunsilk Hijab range to both markets in 2004, while P&G launched its Rejoice Hijab Perfection Series in Indonesia two years ago. Both brands address the most common issues found among hijab wearers like dandruff, bad hair odour, tangles and hair fall.

A spin-off of this success has seen local players and start-up initiatives boost efforts to cater to this underserved segment. Redzwan Shujauddin, founder of Singapore-based haircare company Aurahijab, told Salaam Gateway that considering the number of women who wear the hijab and the availability of dedicated hair products in market, there is a limited choice of products catering to their needs.

“I don’t think there’s enough education and awareness for women who wear the hijab on the correct way to take care of their hair. Thus, most of them are still hunting for the right product, while worrying about hair problems and losing hair daily, until they become too scared to comb their hair and lose self-confidence,” he said.

Aurahijab focuses on hair fall and malodour with a perfumed two-in-one shampoo and conditioner sold in Singapore and Malaysia. The product promises thicker, fuller hair by stimulating growth and treating hair loss with its composition of candlenut, black cumin seed oil or habbatus sauda and Nigella sativa oil, olive oil and bidara leaves.

“The demand has been quite good and we (receive plenty) of repeat orders because of the results of using our shampoo,” said Shujauddin.

Black cumin seed oil

One reason hijab-wearing women habitually experience hair problems is because they wrap their hijabs too tightly around the head and wear tight hairstyles underneath, according to UK-based Ultra Hair Clinic.

A 2020 study of 32 hijab-wearing women in Indonesia by the University of Muhammadiyah in Jakarta found 59% suffered from an itchy scalp; 43.7% had dandruff problems and 6.3% experienced hair loss.

Malaysian-based Wipro Unza expanded its halal beauty brand Safi to Indonesia in 2018 and launched perfumed hair mists in 2020 as a solution to hijab odour. Malaysian start-up Blush also entered the hijab haircare space in 2019 with Hijab and Hairmist, an innovative product the company states can be applied to both the hair and hijab without leaving perfume stains on the fabric.

In November 2021 Malaysian start-up Follow Me rolled out a green-tea hijab range comprising five halal-certified products, with a “48-hour lasting fragrance” including a hair fall solution shampoo, hair fall solution conditioner, anti-itch shampoo and two hair mists.

Black cumin seed oil has become especially popular within hijab haircare as its high concentration of thymoquinone, a powerful antihistamine, can naturally restore hair growth, according to a study published in the International Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research.

Focusing on hijab products enables brands to tap into a growing haircare market in Muslim south-east Asia. Indonesia’s haircare product market is forecast to grow from $1.2 billion in 2019 to $1.7 billion in 2024, recording a 7.7% compound annual growth rate (CAGR), according to research from UK-based data and analytics company GlobalData. Correspondingly, Malaysia’s haircare product market is forecast to grow from $269.2 million in 2019 to $341 million in 2024, recording a 5% CAGR.

The GCC market

In contrast with Asia, hijab-wearing women in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region have fewer options when it comes to specially formulated haircare products. Given the region’s hot and humid weather that affects every hair type and causes itchiness and frizz, women can easily struggle with dry and damaged hair.

“The main concerns [for hijab-wearing women] are an itchy scalp from sweat and sebum, especially when living in a country with a humid climate, as well as product build-up and the use of wrong haircare products,” said Romyet Khouri, technical director at The Loft Fifth Avenue, a beauty salon group with 14 branches in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Three brands dominating the Gulf hijab haircare market are Safi with its extensive hijab haircare line, the UAE’s Hemani with its anti-hair loss hijab shampoo and Saudi Arabia’s Pure Beauty, with three hijab hair shampoos. Pure Beauty’s shampoos are manufactured by Cosmaline, a Lebanese company offering its own Soft Wave Hijab haircare range in Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq.

Other brands, whose products are not necessarily formulated for hijab-wearing women but are well-suited for them, are attempting to break into this segment in the Gulf. Vatika Naturals, the haircare brand of fast-moving consumer goods major Dabur India, regularly markets its halal-certified haircare range through influencer collaborations and campaigns such as the recent Vatika Voices.

Launched last December in collaboration with travel and lifestyle content platform Curly Tales, the six-month campaign is shedding light on successful women in the Gulf region, several of whom wear the hijab. The initiative sees Fahima Falaknaz, the first Emirati female boxer to represent the UAE, and Areej Al Hammadi, an Emirati female footballer who plays for the national football team, narrating their stories through a video series. Both women wear the hijab.

“Although wearing a hijab means the hair is not exposed to natural elements, proper haircare is still important,” Aashwi Verma, Vatika Naturals marketing manager, told Salaam Gateway. “Vatika’s Enriched Hair Oils do a perfect job at pampering the hair with natural goodness. They have ingredients like olives which are great for nourishment, almonds for lustre, garlic and cactus for growth and black seeds for strength.”

As with south-east Asia, the GCC’s overall haircare market is growing – offering sales potential for hijab products. India-based Mordor Intelligence predicts the UAE haircare product market to record a 4.2% CAGR in the five years to 2026, while Saudi Arabia will register a 5.5% CAGR between 2020 and 2025.

The UAE haircare product market is projected to grow 3.8% between 2020 and 2023 and value $346.8 million, while Saudi Arabia’s haircare market is anticipated to grow 6% in the same period to surpass $1 billion by 2023, according to Euromonitor International.

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